Book Content Warning: gore, sexual assault, suicide, self harm, graphic violence
Article Content Warning: mention of suicide/self harm
“It’s almost October, and horror is my religion. Can I not celebrate orthodoxology and honor my church’s holy days?”
—Stephen Graham Jones, “My Heart is a Chainsaw”
Stephen Graham Jones’s highly anticipated 2021 horror release My Heart is a Chainsaw follows slasher film-fanatic Jade Daniels as she narrates her way through her rural Idaho town’s storied history of murder, all the while correlating old legends to events occurring within the town.
After a several months absence in “rehab” at a psychiatric facility following a suicide attempt, Jade is just returning to town.
Right away we know Jade has a super traumatic, painful past, and she absolutely doesn’t want to talk about it unless it’s by way of conveying her trauma through slasher cinema trivia.
I did not particularly care for the way in which Stephen Graham Jones portrayed Jade’s trauma. Although it was a central theme of the novel, and was routinely mentioned in Jade’s narration, her trauma often seemed to become the butt of a joke. Further, the details surrounding Jade’s suicide attempt and mental health are never fully explained, and neither is her familial trauma she carries every day.
Jade, for me, was an excruciatingly unlikeable character to the point where I had a hard time picking up the book. Her self indulgence and propensity to serialize everything around her—as if it were an actual horror movie rather than a tragedy happening to real people—really started to bother me, as it seemed almost juvenile at times. She frames the entire town and everyone in it as if they were a slasher flick, as if she alone can predict the fate of their existence.
As Jade puts it, “When you’re wearing slasher goggles, everything looks like a slasher.”
My main complaint is that it took me a really long time to get into this book. The slow build up and heavy exposition, all taking place entirely in Jade’s head, was something that I personally did not care for. I found myself feeling bored with Jade’s retellings of the town’s history and as a result was truly slogging my way through till the last chapter.
However, if you are a die-hard horror fan—more particularly slasher genre—then this book is absolutely for you. Nearly every page is chock full of references to popular slashes movies including Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th, just to name a few.
Likewise, if you are a fan of Stephen Graham Jones’s previous horror novels involving Native American OwnVoices lore, you would also enjoy this. The plot centers around Indian Lake, the horrors that lie there, and the havoc they may or may not be wreaking on the town.
Overall, the slow pace of this novel did not serve well to convey some of the more “horrifying” aspects, and instead proceeded to lead me down a rabbit hole of tedious exposition. I was hopeful that the pace would pick up—and it did—but not until the last two to three chapters. A horror novel should hold my attention sooner than eighty percent of the way through the book.
Ultimately, reading from Jade’s point of view ruined the novel a bit for me and I regrettably found myself wishing I was reading one of the other summer 2021 horror releases, which is typically not a feeling you want to have when reading an anticipated release.
Stephen Graham Jones is the NYT bestselling author of Mongrels, The Only Good Indians, and, most recently, My Heart is a Chainsaw. Stephen will be speaking at the Fort Collins Book Fest in October!
My Heart is a Chainsaw can be purchased here.